Dog Training/Fading


Hello, I am planning to become a dog trainer and am looking for the exact steps it takes to fade food lures, fade luring motions and add new cues. Can you tell me if this is the correct sequence?

1) I use a food lure to make the dog sit using an upward hand motion. When the dog sits, I click and give the food.
2) After a few reps, I fade the food lure by using the upward hand motion but this time without food in sight. When the dog sits I click and give the food from the other hand.
3) I start fading the hand motion by making it less visible. When the dog sits I click and give the food.
4) I add the verbal command "sit" right before the hand motion. When the dog sits I click and give the food.
5) I fade the hand motion completely. The responds only to the verbal command. When the dog sits I click and give the food.

I am confused about when to add the command word, is it before fading the hand motion or after? Can you please provide a step- by-step process, many thanks!

Hi Miranda,

This is the order I would use if I were teaching a dog that I was using food luring with, or one that had learned to sit already with a food lure - and I wanted to put the "sit" on a verbal cue/command.

You are correct in saying the verbal command/cue prior to the hand motion. The formula to change a cue (or command) would be to give the new cue, followed by the old cue (or command)and then fade the old cue/command. At that point, either cue/command would work - the hand signal or the verbal cue/command, so long as they were given in this order and not simultaneously.

However, as a certified clicker trainer, I minimize food luring and use cues rather than commands. Cues are opportunities for reinforcement and commands are orders with an implied threat, i.e., "Do it or else." My feeling is that "commands" are best reserved for soldiers and computers, and cues are for performers.

Here is a video of how I teach sit using clicker training:

The technique you describe above is called lure-reward training. Adding a click provides clarification for the dog about exactly which behavior is being reinforced, but this technique could not really be called "clicker training," in the truest sense of the word. It is your choice how you choose to train, and I can't really find any fault with this but let me explain why I prefer to avoid food luring as taught in the Karen Pryor Academy.

Food in front of the dog's nose may expedite training, but it also presents a slight risk of teaching a dog to only work for a food bribe. Fading the lure as soon as possible minimizes the risk. Food is also a distraction - more for some dogs than others. I want the dog I am training to be fully attentive and thinking, not focusing on the food which in my opinion, distracts him from thinking about what he is doing to earn the reinforcement.

So, your technique is good if you choose to start with a food lure, transition to a hand signal and then change the hand signal to a verbal cue - or command. I prefer, as taught in the Karen Pryor Academy to minimize food luring, body movement and prompts, and instead capture or shape the behavior, and then put it on cue.

Hope this helps.

Good luck!

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Cindy Ludwig, M.A., R.N., KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA


My specialty is clicker training. I'm a Karen Pryor Academy graduate and Certified Training Partner (certified clicker trainer). Karen Pryor was a marine mammal trainer and one of the early proponents of force-free animal training who helped popularize clicker training in the early 90's. I also do behavior modification with dogs that have fear, anxiety and aggression. I work with service dogs and was a certified therapy dog evaluator with two other organizations before starting my own therapy dog program, the first of its kind requiring all dog candidates to be trained with force-free methods and all evaluators to demonstrate a commitment to force-free methods. I made weekly visits with my own therapy dog to a nursing center in Dubuque, Iowa for four and a half years. I have an undergraduate degree in science and am a registered nurse with a previous specialty and certification in critical care, so I can answer questions pertaining to biology, behavior and pharmacology but because I am not a licensed veterinarian I cannot legally or ethically answer questions requesting a diagnosis. I have done graduate work in animal learning and wolf ethology, and have also completed coursework in dog biology, behavior and pet nutrition at regionally accredited U.S. universities. I continue my study of applied behavior analysis with top experts in the field. For more information and to schedule a consultation or enroll in classes, see my Canine Connection website:


Prior to becoming a full time professional dog trainer in May 2009 and opening my business, Canine Connection LLC I worked part time as a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant and also volunteered at humane societies in several states over a period from 1992-2009. My previous full time occupation was in the medical profession. I have completed various continuing education programs including but not limited to the Purdue University Veterinary School Principles and Techniques of Behavior Modification course; Clicker Expo; undergraduate courses in dog biology, behavior, and pet nutrition; and graduate coursework in wolf ethology. I was a Field Representative for Paws with a Cause for 3 years and train service dogs. My Golden Retriever that accompanies me in my work as a Field Representative is a "career changed" dog from the Paws breeding program that I have clicker trained as a demonstration service dog. This same dog I trained to earn the first Dog Scout title in the State of Iowa. She and I were also members of the Badger Kennel Club Drill Team and performed with the group annually at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin. My dog, Ginger and I provided weekly pet therapy visits to a local nursing center for the past three and a half years. I continue my education by participating in seminars and class offerings provided by such notable experts as Dr. Sophia Yin, Dr. Ray Coppinger, Michele Pouliot and others. My services include in-home private training and behavior modification, group classes and pet sitting. More information is available on my website:

Founder and owner, Canine Connection LLC; Founder, Canine Connection Positively Trained Certified Therapy Dogs; Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT); 2010 APDT Education Committee; Truly Dog-Friendly Trainer Coalition; Doggone Safe; American Kennel Club

Top Tips from Top Trainers: 1001 Practical Tips & Techniques for Successful Dog Care and Training (March 2010); The Golden View; Family Connections;; Animal info Publications; HubPages; Finding Fuzzybutt Four Blog; Petopia Newsletter, Galena, Illinois; Suite 101;;; Dubuque 365 Ink Magazine; Dubuque Telegraph Herald; Columbia Business Times; Columbia Senior Times; Columbia Missourian; Columbia Daily Tribune; Graphic Education Corporation; Belson-Hanwright; Critical Care Nurse; Journal of Emergency Nursing; Home Healthcare Nurse; Nursing; Journal of Emergency Medical Services; Shape; Houston Community College Egalitarian; Findlay College Obelisk

B.S., Science; M.A., Higher & Adult Education with graduate work in animal learning, canine biology and behavior, pet nutrition; Graduate, Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior; Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner; Diploma, professional nursing; licensed registered nurse (R.N.); Paramedic completion program; previously licensed paramedic in Texas and Missouri

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